SUNDERLAND have received a major off the pitch boost, with confirmation that the club's academy has retained category one status.

The decision comes on the back of an intense audit from the Premier League.

Category one status has funding and recruitment benefits, with academy manager Robin Nicholls saying Sunderland's youngsters  "have access to the very best programme that is on offer from the Premier League and EFL".

It comes on the back of another hugely successful season for the academy, with Chris Rigg becoming Sunderland's youngest ever outfield player when he made his debut aged just 15 years and 203 days.

Michael Spellman, Caden Kelly and Tommy Watson also featured for the first-team over the course of the season, with boss Tony Mowbray keen to give the club's youngsters an opportunity if he thinks they're good enough.

Sunderland's Under-18s also enjoyed a successful season, narrowly missing out on the Premier League title.

Productivity rates, training facilities, coaching and education are all factors considered in the academy grading process.


Academy boss Nicholls said: "This is fantastic news for the academy and evidence of the great work that has been put in by the staff over the past few seasons.

"Youth development has long been part of this club's history. From six of the starting 11 in the 1973 FA Cup final winning team being from our own youth system, all the way back to local products Bobby Gurney to Raich Carter being joint top scorers with 31 league goals each during the 1936 League title winning team, we have a proud tradition of producing players from within.

"Our academy are twice FA Youth Cup winners and have enjoyed more recent success with both Jordan Henderson and Jordan Pickford playing pivotal roles in the current success of the England national team.

"In the current crop of academy players for the 2022-23 season, along with the four first-team debuts we have also had eight players chosen to represent their national countries at youth level. Retaining EPPP Category One status ensures our place as one of the top youth development environments across the country and retains the opportunity for our staff and players to have access to the very best programme that is on offer from the Premier League and EFL."